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Lets talk about traditional liturgical Church Music

Discussion in 'Traditional Theology' started by The Liturgist, May 15, 2020.

  1. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian

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    In this forum we haven’t been talking much about Traditional Theology of late, so I thought we might have a thread to talk about the musical heritage of traditional theology. @dzheremi - your church has Tasbeha, one of my favorite traditions of ancient hymnody (as far as ancient church music goes, I love Tasbeha, it, along with the Syriac Beth Gazo 8 tone system, the delightful fusion of Gregorian Chant and Byzantine Chant one finds in the idiosyncratic music of the Ambrosian Rite of Milan), and the polyphonic music of the Georgian church, is one of my four favorite forms of ancient Christian chant. @Paidiske - did i ever tell you how much I love Anglican chant, the way the Psalms are sung at Choral Evensong? @MarkRohfrietsch - I adore the motets and cantatas of JS Bach as well as his five Lutheran masses, and the music of other Lutheran composers such as Dietrich Buxtehude. I wish we had a Russian or Ukrainian or Bulgarian around so I could gush about how much I love the music of those three churches. Contemporary Greek Orthodox music by composers like Tikey Zes and Michaelides is exquisite. @hedrick - The contribution of early Calvinist Psalters in Geneva was huge; who doesn’t love the melody “The Old 100th”? I am desparately trying to find recordings of some forms of early Anglican, Presbyterian and Congregational church music, namely the Sternhold and Hopkins Psalter (Anglican), Lining Out (Presbyterian) and the Bay Psalter (Congregationalist, used in the early churches in New England).

    The Ethiopian Church by the way has the oldest system of musical notation currently in use in the world. Their music is extremely complex and I find it beautiful and challenging.

    My thought was maybe we could talk about the function of traditional sacred music in the liturgy and also post links to recordings on YouTube and elsewhere of particularly good church music. I tagged several of you because I either regard you as a friend or really admire your posts, and I thought you might enjoy this thread, as you have historically posted heavily in this forum, and of late it feels to me like we could be having more conversations about traditional Christianity in here, and a lot of recent threads in here you guys have not participated in, and those threads struck me as not really being in the same category with what we were talking about in this forum when I joined last year.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2020
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  2. Tolworth John

    Tolworth John Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I am always amused a the discription of ' traditional sacred music' as all the samples you av are all heavily influenced by fashion.

    Music has a role, that of helping us worship, none of it is sacred as Al of it can be used for any purpose, it s only only our association that cases us to label t one or the other.
     
  3. thecolorsblend

    thecolorsblend If God is your Father, who is your Mother? Supporter

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    As a convert, the killer-app for me was Catholic theology. Ultimately, that's why I made the change from evangelicalism to Catholicism.

    However, having made that change, I attended several high Traditional Latin Masses. And that really sealed the deal. I didn't know much about chant back then (still rly don't) but I think it's impossible to not get swept away in the grandeur and elegance of the chant, the incense, etc.

    The chant has a soothing quality about it while also summoning the utmost respect and reverence for the Almighty that I, at least, have ever experienced. A solemn high TLM is truly a thing of beauty and authentic worship.

    I cherish it.

     
  4. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian

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    I absolutely love the Tridentine mass whether accompanied by Palestrina, Byrd, Vitoria, Tallis (well kind of, his motets are good, but I do have to confess I prefer Byrd), or, for that matter, Gregorian Chant. And I think your Pope Pius X wrote a key document for all of Christianity on the concept of sacred music and how it should be defined and appreciated with his motu proprio Tra Le Sollectitudini , the celebrated Instruction on Sacred Music, the general principles of which I believe could be extrapolated for every liturgical rite and every denomination (this particular motu proprio it should be noted had a huge impact and is probably why you normally hear Gregorian Chant when attending a Tridentine Mass today, as opposed to the liturgically unwieldy compositions of Classical and Romantic era composers in the late 18th and 19th centuries, which have not been banned; Pope John Paul II celebrated a mass once in St. Peters using music by Mozart conducted by Herbert von Karajan, music of the sort Pope Pius X sought to de-emphasize, music which is good, but, for routine liturgical use, kind of excessive; the piece in question was Mozart’s Coronation Mass).
     
  5. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian

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    So that’s actually not really the perspective of the traditional churches. It also ignores the meaning of the words “sacred” or “holy”, which literally mean set aside.

    So the music of the liturgical worship of the church is sacred by virtue of the fact it was composed for sacred worship. It was set aside for the worship of God. Furthermore it was composed in a style reserved for sacred music.

    So just as we do not use paper plates and dixie cups to distribute the Eucharist, but rather a gilded chalice and paten, we also do not or should not use popular music or secular music in divine worship, but rather the traditional forms of music associated with each liturgical tradition and denomination.
     
  6. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter

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    So what; music that is written or composed to praise God, to teach and edify the faithful, and to add beauty to the Mass, Divine Service, Daily Office, Prayer and to illiterate Scripture like Bach's Passions and Handel's Messiah; it is for sacred purpose and is much more sacred that "secular" music. It it any less sacred than God's Word is, if it is used to illuminate His holy Word, and encourage our faith?
     
  7. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian

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    Also, if we consider the Psalms and Canticles in Scripture, which are important parts of the hymnography of every liturgical rite in Christendom and every Christian culture, those are literally Sacred Scripture.

    Furthermore, if we look at the hymns in the Lutheran mass, just as an example, if I look at the Lutheran Hymnal of 1941 or the Lutheran Service Book of 2006 that the LCMS uses*, the liturgical music that is a part of every service is taken from the words of Scripture. The same is true of the Roman Catholic mass, Anglican Mattins and Evensong (their Holy Communion service also, although that service is less inherently musical), and I read an Eastern Orthodox book, a famous one, I think one by Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Church, in which the author said that 93% of the words in the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom are from scripture. And in general this percentage I think is accurate for all the liturgical churches.

    The only exceptions I fear are some of the extremely liberal denominations. When I was in the UCC, we had a service book from 1992 which I did like but which had a few options for the services which I never used, because they weren’t scriptural; the ELCA’s new hymnal really horrifies me. The PCUSA’s new service book and hymnal Glory to God is actually decent, however ( @hedrick do you use that in your parish? ).

    * @MarkRohfrietsch I forget, we talked once, you’re LCMS right?
     
  8. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian

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    By the way when I posted this thread I was not wanting controversy but rather hoping for some beautiful music.

    Here is a channel I found on YouTube which I absolutely love:

    Archive of Recorded Church Music

    In particular, they have recordings of Choral Evensong as broadcast on the BBC over the decades.
     
  9. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter

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    Some sacred music in a sacred space; Recessional hymn from a Lutheran Conference, in a Lutheran Chapel, in a Lutheran University; Valparaiso IN.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter

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    Don't underestimate the Anglicans; High Church and Anglo-Catholics can hold their own!!
     
  11. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    You and me both!

    Is Ethiopian really the oldest? I hadn't heard that. St. Yared lived in the 6th century, but I was under the impression that the Beth Gazo was considerably older than that, having its core in the hymns that St. Ephrem wrote to counteract the effect of the teachings of Bar Daison. Is this incorrect? I'm under the impression that it is fairly standard as a narrative (it's what I've heard from every Syriac person, and read in several different sources), though like the Agepya or any other source, the form which it is in today is a few centuries later (dating to Mor Jacob of Edessa, d. 807, according to the Syriac Music website).

    By the way, anyone in this thread who is interested in the Beth Gazo can listen to its chants here: Beth Gazo | The Treasury of Chants | Syriac Orthodox Church

    Coptic tasbeha (which means 'praise' in Arabic, by the way -- تسبحة) is here, from the monastery of the Romans (El Baramous), with subtitles:



    Or in English from the Monastery of St. Anthony in Newberry Springs, California (Mojave Desert) here:



    And here, finally, is a wonderful example of the Ethiopian way with its traditional notation, as you can see in the little marks above the letters:



    The "Seatat" (ሰዓታት) which is being read from very deliberately above, by the way, is the Ethiopian Agpeya/Horologion. Ya learn something new every day, I tell ya. :) I knew they had their own, I just didn't know what it was called.

    Great thread by the way. Thank you for it, Liturgist. I've tried similar things in the past, but they weren't as successful as this one already is. :D
     
  12. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter

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    Lutheran Church Canada; in fellowship with the LCMS. We are somewhat less "Waltharian" than the LCMS. LOL; we share the same liturgical books though; and have similar freedoms of usage.
     
  13. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian

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    The Beth Gazo lacks musical notation. This is why preservation of Syriac Orthodox musical heritage has become so critical, because most of it hasn’t been notated, and there are only have widespread recordings of the Mardin school of music and the Malayalam variant on it. I myself can’t even find a recording of music from the Tikrit school, which is the second most popular form of Syriac Orthodox chant.

    To put in perspective how bad this is, consider there used to be other varieties of Tasbeha, and the Coptic church in the upper nile preferred Sahidic Coptic, this being the main liturgical language of your church until the Muslim conquest, the ban on public speaking of Coptic (the Mamaluks would cut out the tongue of people they heard speaking it), and Bohairc Coptic alone survives as a liturgical language.

    Or we could look at it another way using an analogy: suppose some of the older forms of Russian chant, or Gregorian chant in the West, were simply forgotten when the music of Bortnianksy, Palestrina et al started being used by the church.

    Due to persecution, the cultural heritage of the Ethiopian and Eritrean churches is no less threatened than any other Oriental Orthodox church (especially the Eritrean church), but at least there is a system of musical notation, one which predates Western systems of notation.

    Now, the ancient Greeks also had musical notation, which has allowed a handful of pieces of music from the classical era to be recreated. However, the Ge’ez system of musical notation is the oldest such system in continual use, and as a result there is probably more fidelity to the most ancient music of the Ethiopian church than exists elsewhere, because Ge’ez notation predates Byzantine notation and Western notation by a few centuries.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2020
  14. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian

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    That’s right. What part of Canada are you in? I think we talked about the excellence of your new hymnal (the Lutheran Service Book).

    Although I do think a further update to the LSB to replace the phrase “and also with you”, which is a product of the dark period of liturgical modernization in the 1970s, with “and with your spirit”, for better compatibility with traditional Lutheran liturgies, for example your 1941 hymnal, the oldest Latin liturgy penned by Martin Luther reading et cum spiritu tuo, which is rendered “and with your spirit” in the revised English translation of the Novus Ordo Missae published at the insistence of Benedict XVI, who, from the perspective of traditional liturgy, I think we can all admire because of the role he played in allowing Roman Rite Catholics free reign to use their traditional Latin mass with his Summorum Pontificum.

    The new 2019 Book of Common Prayer of the ACNA also uses “and with your spirit.”

    There is also extra content of a traditional nature which could go in a second edition of the Lutheran Service Book. I will say the 2006 Lutheran Service Book and the 2019 ACNA Book of Common Prayer are the only contemporary language liturgical books I actually like.

    *One thing I am upset about by the way is the NIV, which was stylistically the most elegant contemporary language Bible, has been ruthlessly suppressed by Zondervan in favor of a new edition of the NIV, based on the dreadful “TNIV”, which uses gender neutral language even where not indicated by the scriptural text for reasons of political correctness, and you can’t even legally obtain the old NIV in ebook form. From a textual source perspective, the NIV also has problems, but at least it is not basically heterodox.

    ** I think I told you how I would love to work for the LCMS, but I doubt I could get colloquy given my training and background in the United Church of Christ..

    *** At the 75th anniversary of an LCMS parish, the president of the LCMS that year talker about the Uniter Church of Christ which has become through unchecked rejection of traditional Christianity in favor of a politcal agenda, the evil twin brother of the LCMS from a historical perspective, because the UCC resulted from a merger of most of the Congregational Church with the descendants of the Prussian Reformed congregations which separated from the Missouri Synod once the Prussian immigrants realized that, absent the King and Chancellor forcing them into one artificial state church, they could go their own separate ways.

    That 75th anniversary liturgy had some lovely music, so to bring myself back on my own topic, here it is for you to enjoy:

     
  15. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian

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    I absolutely love the high church and Anglo Catholic traditions in terms of liturgical music. In fact, the greatest Canadian composer, Healey Willam, was an Anglo Catholic. His music is so beautiful; I have a video of an LCMS parish using it in my YouTube library:

     
  16. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian

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    By the way @dzheremi I have some good Tasbeha in my collection, but I suspect you have better, could you share some with us?
     
  17. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    Coptic music was traditionally not notated either (still isn't, outside of the community-developed hazzat system, which not everyone uses; we didn't use it at the church I was received into), being learned by (often blind) cantors from their masters. As I understand it, efforts at doing so don't predate the 19th century, and are not spurred on by the community itself but by foreign musicologists (as when Margit Toth worked with the legendary Ragheb Moftah on the world's first professionally notated version of the liturgy of St. Basil for AUC Press about two decades ago, with supporting recordings by cantor Sadek Atallah).

    I would imagine that the situation with the Syriacs is considerably more urgent because there are quite simply fewer of them than Coptic Orthodox people, and they are under a much bigger threat with the ongoing conflicts in their homelands in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey (PKK vs. the Turkish state, Turkish state vs. the Monastery of St. Gabriel, etc.) which don't really have an analog in the worldwide Coptic situation (sure, it's not an easy time to be a Copt in Egypt, but it's not really comparable to a place like Syria where there is an active Islamist takeover; the Egyptians already went through that one recently and came out the other side with a new military strongman, while Assad and friends keep at it). Comparisons to language loss or attrition are a different matter. Coptic was probably dead as a spoken language c. 14th century (see here Leslie MacCoul "The Strange Death of Coptic Culture" in Coptic Church Review No. 10, Vol. 2, which analyzes the very last original Coptic documents, marriage contracts from the 13th century), at which point it is at least reasonable to suggest that the preservation of any dialect in such a moribund state as we see to this day via the liturgy is preferable to losing it altogether. I did my master's thesis on the use and preservation of the Coptic language in the modern liturgy, so I'm pretty well acquainted with how Coptic people tend to look at this issue, and it seems like the most common opinion is "Coptic isn't really dead so long as we keep it alive in Church, though of course we would like to speak it everywhere else, too", an aim for which Bohairic is as good as any other dialect. And there are still what you might call 'dialectical' differences, anyway, thanks to the more remote villages which never completely made the switch to the Greco-Bohairic pronounciation championed/created by Erian Moftah in the 1850s-1860s. A lot of people, upon hearing the reconstruction of the 'Old Bohairic' (pre-GB pronounciation) made by Emile Maher (now Fr. Shenouda Maher) assume it must be Sahidic, actually. They're wrong, but it's interesting that that's where they go.
     
  18. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    Tasbeha, not so much outside of the recordings I made for the aforementioned master's thesis, which I am literally not legally allowed to share in this venue (human subjects research board regulation; they make you carve out very specific exceptions to this in writing, so unless this thread spontaneously becomes a linguistics conference... :D). I personally enjoy this midnight praise that was recorded some time ago at the Monastery of St. Macarius much more than the video I shared earlier (less flashy cymbal is always better to me), though I don't know that it's necessarily any better than anything you might already have:



    There is also this lovely historical recording from 1977 from the same monastery, with 60 monks and the concluding blessing given by the very famous and influential departed saint-in-all-but-name Fr. Matthew the Poor (former father of confession for HH Pope Shenouda III when he was still Fr. Antonios El Souriani, and also came very close to being elevated instead of HH Pope Shenouda):

     
  19. The Liturgist

    The Liturgist Traditional Liturgical Christian

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    Awesome...
     
  20. MarkRohfrietsch

    MarkRohfrietsch Unapologetic Apologist Supporter

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    Innitiate an inquiry with the LCMS; find your district President, and speak with His office.

    Regarding translations; LSB, Divine Service Setting 3, as well as Vespers and Matins retain "And with thy spirit" while the other use the more "novis ordo" "And also with you". When I was in college, I had the good pleasure of attending service at St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Toronto in the 70's; however Mr. Willian was alread in Glory for some years by that time. Amazing music though!
     
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